After a couple weeks of gloomy weather, the sun came out and gave Central Texas a break from the rain, the wind, and the clouds. Seizing this sunny opportunity, I called Kathryn and Mark Rehfield, gathered a few supplies, and made my way out of Austin. Despite the wintry weather, the trip to Spicewood, TX is scenic and offers a gratifying break from the hectic Austin traffic. The landscape is honey-stained with dried grasses which conspire to create the perfect contrast to an aqua sky, and it is difficult to find a more enjoyable excursion in mid-January. From Highway 71, there is a view of the entrance and a small greenhouse with just a peek of the farmhouse standing in the background.
Occupying the Old Gregg Farmhouse, which is now more than 100 years old, Spicewood Spines Succulent Nursery sells crafts, jewelry, art, and a large variety of succulents from all over the world. As is the case with many nurseries, this one began with an enthusiastic collector. Kathryn and Mark (mostly Mark) began collecting succulents in 1997 and soon built a greenhouse for the collection. By 2003, the couple could be found selling plants by the side of the road, and in the following year, they had moved to a retail location, which was replaced with their current location in 2008.
Some of the pieces were commissioned by the owners, and customers can can purchase exclusive prints from pyrography artist Kathleen Marie of Johnson City. Other pieces are purchased by the owners to provide an eclectic selection for discerning customers who enjoy owning original, creative pieces with local flavor and history. While journeying through the store, customers are occasionally followed by a silver-haired ambassador who occasionally follows the visitor to the back.
On and surrounding the screened back porch, customers can find decorative gravel, pots, and some curious ceramic lizards who look like they are trying to make a break from their enclosure. On the porch bench, the owners can arrange potted gardens on request and for a material fee, and they will even use the customer's old pots which is a service I have never encountered. With such gorgeous arrangements on display and for sale, it's no wonder that hapless gardeners bring in their pots with recently deceased plants to be refreshed and rejuvenated.
Beyond the porch, there are large planters, dish gardens, decorative garden ornaments, and hardy landscape-worthy plants which all fit nicely within a Texan garden. I have never encountered such large horse crippler cactus for sale, and gazing at them in their pots, it's easy to see how this one cactus could mortally injure a half-ton animal. Thar be dangers in dem fields!
The large dish gardens on decorative bases have some kind of unearthly gravitational pull, and I am particularly drawn to the one with a sculptural prickly pear base. The garden in the dish combines interesting stones, gravel, branches, and plants including an Astrophytum, but the dish gardens do not end in the yard.
my Mr. Pickle Plant which I posted about previously, and of course, I picked up a couple plants while I was there.
The greenhouse is a relief during the winter months because it is a warm retreat for not only plants but also people. It's easy to wander for a bit (or an hour) and browse especially because there is always something in bloom. A few of the plants are dormant, which might be a bit disheartening for some, but dormancy gives a new view of plants only previously seen fully leafed. The Pachypodiums look particularly menacing and architectural during dormancy which can be unpleasantly easy to forget during the warm months.
I'm glad to have stumbled across this nursery, and I hope others will find their way out to Spicewood. I have not been paid to write this post (although I was given a plant I was willing to purchase) - I just really enjoy the place this much and want other Central Texans to discover small, local nurseries and shops. They will also reuse your old packing peanuts, and if you bring in a 15 gallon garbage bag full of them, you will get a $5 store credit. If you aren't in Central Texas and might be on the receiving end of this glorious recycling process (honestly, it's difficult to recycle these things), you can purchase plants online through the website, and I was informed that the owners have a lot more plants than what's advertised. If there's a particular succulent you're after, it might be worth your while to give the Rehfields a call.
While I was at the nursery, I took more than 200 photos and could not possibly fit them all within the text, so I'm including a slideshow for those who would like to see more.
For more Cactus Monday posts, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies.